Talk:English Spelling Society

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[Untitled][edit]

The Spelling Society: simplify spelling -- accelerate literacy. [www.spellingsociety.org]

The Simplified Spelling Society was founded in London in 1908. This was 2 years after the Simplified Spelling Board (SSB) was established in New York in 1906. Over the years, Carnegie donated $250,000 to the SSB. The UK society recieved one unsolicited gift of $10,000 from Carnegie along with a note that this would be the last.

Both organizations were off shoots of the Phonemic Spelling Council whose founders were members of the Philological Societies in the UK and America.

The members of the PSC and the SSS shared the same opinions: "The only spelling that can be described as being correct is phonetic spelling, a spelling that records the spoken word."

If English spelling was as phonemic as 95% of the languages in the world, it could be learned in a faction of the time now spent trying to learn the written form as a logography or system of word-signs. The basics of most writing systems can be learned in 3 months. English takes 3 years or more.

A 2001 Dundee University study of primary schoolchildren in 15 European countries found that it took an average of 2.5 years for children working in English to master basic literacy skills whereas those in most other countries had achieved this within a year of starting school. Dyslexia is also more common in Britain than in countries with more straightforward spelling systems. (see www.spellingsociety.org for detailed descriptions of the studies).

Altho phonemic spelling is the answer, the simplified spellers thought that it would be too radical to be generally accepted so they tried to come up with easier sells. They supported American spelling since Webster attempted to remove superfluous letters. They supported a list of better spellings that were already recognized as [variant spellings] in many dictionaries: enuf, thru, etc.

Members of the PSC went on to contribute to the development of the [IPA]. The UK spelling society developed [New Spelling], edited by Walter Rippman, and based on Alexander Ellis' Diminuin. (see below) New Spelling represented the long vowels as ae ee ie oe ue. Ellis was an Anglo-Saxon scholar who helped Isaac Pitman develop his phonetic type.

Oxford scholar, Henry Sweet, a member of the PSC, was at odds with Ellis and Rippman's use of shifted vowels [= ?] to represent the sounds of English. The PSC preferred to return to the way that the vowels were represented in Middle English and Latin.

The fundamental belief of the spelling reformers is that the writing system should be updated when the pronunciation of the language changes. When the pronunciation of the long vowels shifted between 1450 and 1650 [see great vowel shift] their represention should have changed [examples needed]. Those in the PSC thought that this oversight should be corrected and English should re-establish its Latin roots. The simplified spellers were more interested in being popular than in being right. Phonemic spelling could and should be based on the more familiar shifted vowels.

The first president of the spelling society was Sir James Murray, editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Supporters of spelling reform included many famous writers and scholars. Tennyson, H.G. Wells, Charles Darwin, Daniel Jones, ....

Today, the spelling society does not endorse any particular scheme. New Spelling is just one of many proposed schemes [so why mention it? Oh, because you use it below. Say 'see below,' then]. Dr. Gledhill wrote, "Our society has existed for a century and no one has yet come up with a truly workable solution. At the moment our main focus is to publicise the need for reform."

The society supports a number[3?] of discussion groups in the continuing effort to find a workable solution to the alphabet problem in English. Members of the society continue to endorse the six axioms:

AXIOMS: (written in the latest version of New Spelling)

1. The leters of the alfabet wer deziend to reprezent speech sounds. That is the alfabetic prinsipl.

2. The alfabetic prinsipl maeks literasy eezy, alowing the reeder to pronouns werds frum thair speling, and the rieter to spel them from thair sounds.

3. As pronunsiaeshun chaenjes thru the aejus, the alfabetic prinsipl tends to be corupted; the speling of werds needs to be adapted to sho the nue sounds.

4. Unliek uther langgwejes, English haz not sistematicaly moderniezd its speling oever the past 1000 yeers, and todae it oenly haphazardly obzervs the alfabetic prinsipl and its uther prinsipls to reprezent the English langgwej.

5. Neglect of the alfabetic prinsipl and uezers' needs now maeks literasy unnesesairily dificult in English thruout the werdd, and lerning, edjucaeshun and comuenicaeshun all sufer. [Mention business costs - Shaw did].

6. Proseejers ar needed to reeserch and manej improovments in English speling as a werld comuenicaeshun sistem.

  • Soundspel is about 80% phonemic. Many think this is good enuf. Others think it might be too much. For example: 1 syllable words and ending syllables can continue to place the e-marker after the trailing consonant. unlike instead of unliek. ages or ajes instead of aejes.

steve.bett@gmail.com

Prominent Members?[edit]

Did 3ese include George Bernard Shaw? Ei3er way, he should be listed among 'prominent supporters' (Or does 3at better belong in 3e Reform of the Spelling of English entry?). Also, Sir James Pitman and hRH the Duke of Edinburgh. Etaonsh 08:14, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

H.G.Wells was a member; perhaps also Charles Darwin? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 212.100.250.217 (talk) 08:42, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

Decline[edit]

There appears to have been a progressive decline in the fortunes of the Society. It seems to have started in an era of new century progressive optimism, with the support of numerous eminent persons, the cause declining, in the mid-twentieth century, into a vehicle for one or two Members of Parliament with narrowed agendas, until, now approaching its centenary, it seems totally lacking in wealthy benefactors and eminent spokespersons. (Perhaps this is also reflected in the membership figures? Unfortunately we will never know, as these, along with large sections of the minutes, have been lost). As with many such organisations and causes, one shouldn't ignore the toll taken by the effects of two world wars on morale, membership, and people's priorities, over the years. Even when sufficient time has passed for recovery from the effects of global conflagrations, the concomitant decline sets a negative precedent. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 87.86.123.67 (talk) 17:49, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

The drift towards a more limited, Conservative agenda[edit]

In the early days of the Society, it was patronised by eminent wellwishers and donors who entertained the Big Picture of spelling reform goals, namely that archaic, prolix spellings, printed repeatedly, actually cost the English-speaking world huge sums of money. Forty years on, and two world wars later, the Society showed signs of decline, and of becoming a mere British 'political football.' Altho Conservative MP James Pitman and Labour MP Mont Follick appeared to work together on the matter in Parliament, the former crucially reduced the primary aim of the endeavour to child literacy, the latter (in a somewhat secondary role, despite his academic status as a linguistics professor) to facilitating teaching English as a foreign language. Pitman's take on the primary aim, like his eminence in the field of orthographic experimentation, seems to have temporarily triumphed. By 2002[1], the whole issue of 'costs of unreformed spelling' was perceived merely as an adjunct to the child literacy issue: 'the cost of teaching children to read using unreformed spelling.' This paralleled a comparable change in America, whereby the Simplified Spelling Board was replaced with the American Literacy Council. The era of the far-sighted, eminent donor-philanthropist had passed...

Revival[edit]

...or has it? The relatively recent advent of the Internet and its discussion groups has given new life, democracy and accessibility both to the Society and its cause. In particular, the enthusiastic moderation of retired Austin professor Steve Bett has enabled English spelling reform enthusiasts worldwide to discourse on an unprecedented, day to day basis, to a degree that has, perhaps without intending it, somewhat called into question the authority of the realtime London-based organisation. It also represents something of an apotheosis/vindication of the Internet itself, in that discussion of spelling reform, and active use of reformed spelling systems, is a daily activity of a type which is not, at the time of writing, generally available elsewhere.

('...or has it?' because the Internet owes much of its freedom and accessibility to the philanthropic waiver of patents by Worldwide Web developers Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau).

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Name of this article[edit]

Should it not be English Spelling Society? I notice that the url spellingsociety.org is now redirected to englishspellingsociety.org and they don't appear to use the shorter title much in their web presence and their current aims document includes the word 'English'.

Their constitution statement is ambiguous as it uses the title "Spelling Society" but its first statement is "The name of the Society is The Simplified Spelling Society.".

More importantly, it has never (afaik) ventured into other languages than English so this longer title would be more informative. Chris55 (talk) 10:42, 10 May 2011 (UTC)

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